All too often these days we hear, "I used to believe in God, but..." then the individual tells you about a personal tragedy, points to abstract suffering in the world, or to an all-too-real example of terror. They reason that in the wake of overwhelming sadness and tragedy they doubt God could possibly exist.
After all, how could a just and loving God allow such unchecked evil and then answer us with only silence? The harsh and essential truth is that the deafening silence in the face of pain, disease, and loved ones dying is supposed to cause doubt and doubt is absolutely essential to faith. Recognizing the possibility that there is no God, and yet still trusting and believing, is the only possible way to heaven.
Doubt also provides a valuable test. Do we choose God and do good in His name, or do we allow doubt to guide us to sin wantonly? If we doubt there is a God, then there is no deterrent from choosing the easy way and embracing the glamor of evil. Why work for anything when we can take it from the weak? Why build when you can destroy? Doubt gives us a chance to forgive those who wrong us and find God's grace -- to walk his path as He did to Calvary over 2,000 years ago.
Our path to understanding doubt's importance begins with the basic knowledge that God needs one thing and one thing only: love. God doesn't need air, water, warmth, or food. Just love. But more than that, God needs to be truly and freely loved. Could God truly be freely loved if there was proof?
Wouldn't it be nice if we had clear proof and enjoyed the presence of God? If we all lived to be 100 years old with no possibility of pain, disease, or heartbreak, and no one we loved ever died before their time or suffered. Wouldn't it be nice if we had clear proof and presence of God? Here's the problem with that: we couldn't choose to love Him. We'd have to love Him. Without doubt and free will we would be little more than pets to God. The Lord doesn't want pets. He wants free thinking and loving human beings who choose Him and His way.
Naturally this brings us to answering the question, "how can God be freely and truly loved?" Only by free will, and the necessary doubt that comes hand-in-hand with free will, and the trials of life. God's most precious and necessary gift is free will. Only through free will we get to choose to love God. Grasp and ponder this concept for moment: you cannot have faith without doubt.
Faith by definition is belief, or trust, in the absence of proof. Don't we have proof though? Every day we see miracles, and dismiss them as ordinary. Think of the miracle of your very existence. How you were born in the middle of this vast universe on a planet just the perfect distance from a star that is the engine of life. You have oceans, food, shelter, books, people who love you, a child's wild giggle, a society that tries to be just. It seems incongruous to me that this was an accident of a smattering of atoms. If we look through fresh eyes we see God's hand in all things. Trust in God becomes very easy when we take the time to see every day miracles.
Remember this lesson well the next time your tears fall; the next time an atheist hurls some powerful doubt-inducing barb wrapped in a kernel of truth (the best lies always have a bit of truth); the next time a desperate prayer is met with silence. Know that prayer was heard, but you're loved more than a mere pet. That the ability to doubt is a gift. It is the gift of faith and salvation. Overcoming doubt leads us to God.